Judge Grants MSJ for Plaintiff in TCPA ATDS Case, Awards $122k in Damages

In a case that was first spotlighted by Eric Troutman at TCPAWorld.com, a District Court judge in Ohio has granted a plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and awarded it $122,500 after he was contacted by a debt collector 245 times during a 4 1/2-month span, even though the creditor never communicated to the collector that the plaintiff had revoked consent to be contacted.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Ramsey v. Receivables Performance Management can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff became his father’s guardian and had his father move into a trailer that the plaintiff kept on his property. The father ordered $1,174.19 worth of on-demand movies without the plaintiff’s consent. The cable provider sent a letter to the plaintiff seeking to collect on the balance. The plaintiff canceled his service, but later reactivated it. The cable provider continued to contact the plaintiff about the original debt. The plaintiff told the provider on the calls and sent a letter revoking consent to be contacted. The plaintiff later became delinquent on the reactivated account as well. The provider placed both accounts with the defendant, but did not tell the defendant that the plaintiff had revoked consent to be contacted. The defendant called the plaintiff’s cell phone 245 times between Feb. 20, 2015 and July 7, 2015 seeking to collect on the debt.

The judge first determined that the system used by the defendant met the Sixth Circuit’s definition of an automated telephone dialing system under the TCPA. The defendant attempted to argue that it had consent to contact the plaintiff because it used the number it was provided by the cable company. The defendant also attempted to argue an agency relationship existed between itself and the cable company. But Judge Matthew McFarland of the District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, relied on FCC guidance that “clearly” indicates the caller remains liable for TCPA violations even if it has relied on a third-party’s representation that consent exists.

“Instead of verifying with Windstream or Ramsey that it had the consumer’s prior express consent, RPM proceeded to make hundreds of autodialed calls in reliance upon the assumption it was in the clear,” Judge McFarland wrote. “The FCC has provided that, in this scenario, the caller remains liable for any TCPA violations that may result.”

In assessing the damages, Judge McFarland assessed a $500 fine for each of the 245 calls that were made to the plaintiff’s cell phone.

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